Frustrated and feeling increasingly uneasy, Manchester United fans unleashed a loud cry of “attack, attack, attack” with their team’s Champions League fate hanging in the balance against Sevilla.
It was the Spanish side who answered the call.
Within eight minutes, Sevilla had scored two goals and was heading into the quarterfinals of Europe’s top competition for the first time in 60 years.
In the biggest surprise of the last 16, Sevilla eliminated United by winning the second leg 2-1 at Old Trafford on Tuesday, thanks to two goals in the space of four minutes by substitute Wissam Ben Yedder. In the night’s other match, Roma advanced after Edin Dzeko scored early in the second half to secure a 1-0 home win over Shakhtar Donetsk, overturning a 2-1 first-leg defeat to advance on away goals.
It was a historic night for Sevilla and an embarrassing one for United, which managed only four shots on target in 180 minutes against one of the weakest defenses left in the competition.
“I don’t want to make a drama out of it,” United manager Jose Mourinho said, struggling for an explanation for his team’s feeble performance. “That’s football. It’s not the end of the world.”
United was lucky to escape from the first leg with a 0-0 draw and it always felt dangerous score line for United.
The longer it went scoreless, the more nervy it got inside Old Trafford. The “attack, attack, attack” chant — made famous during the glory years under Alex Ferguson — came after 70 minutes, and Sevilla’s response was to throw on Ben Yedder two minutes later.
The French striker, a former international futsal player, gave the visitors a cutting edge the man he replaced — Luis Muriel — didn’t offer. Another two minutes later, he ran onto Pablo Sarabia’s precise through-ball, got half a meter on marker Eric Bailly and drove a low shot inside the post.
De Gea had no chance with that goal, but could have done more about the second. A Sevilla corner was flicked onto the back post where Ben Yedder stooped to send in a header that De Gea tried to palm over the bar but only succeeded in diverting it into his own net.
Ben Yedder moved onto eight goals in this season’s competition and he missed a chance for a hat trick as United’s defense fell apart in the latter stages. Only Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo — with 12 goals — has more.
Romelu Lukaku pulled one back for United from close range in the 84th but a late rally couldn’t prevent United slipping out of the competition in meek fashion.
“I sat in this chair twice in the Champions League,” Mourinho told reporters after the match. “I knock out Manchester United at home at Old Trafford. I sit in this chair with Porto (in 2004), Man United out. I sit in this chair with Real Madrid, Man United out. I don’t think it’s something new for the club.”
But unlike in those victories, Mourinho might have got his tactics wrong this time.
By starting Marouane Fellaini for the first time since Nov. 22, United manager Jose Mourinho ceded some of the midfield control that was a standout feature of his team’s 2-1 win over Liverpool in the Premier League on Saturday.
There was space in front of United’s back four, with holding midfielder Nemanja Matic isolated as Fellaini roamed, and a team with more incisiveness than Sevilla would have capitalized earlier than it did.
As it was, Sevilla couldn’t find the target with a slew of efforts from distance in the first half but, with Steven Nzonzi and Evert Banega controlling the midfield, United was not finding it easy.
After halftime, United looked more threatening — Jesse Lingard’s low shot brought a good save from goalkeeper Sergio Rico — but was thankful for a last-gasp tackle by Bailly to deny Joaquin Correa just as the Sevilla forward was about to shoot.
Mourinho chose to bring Paul Pogba on for Fellaini on the hour mark to bring some variety to the team’s attacking moves. But it was the introduction of Ben Yedder that had the bigger impact.